For more than a century people have been connected by a shared love for cinema, but the digital age has taken its toll on the experience.
Yet, the threat of going dark didn't phase The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts - rather it spurred a desire to continue the appreciation of the art in its purest form. By offering a movie-going experience that raises the bar and also pays homage to the idea of holding up a mirror to the human experience, the Reg aims to bring a love for the theater back to downtown Jamestown.
For decades the Reg has been showing movies on a celluloid film projector, but due to a change in industry standard, the theater was forced to enter the digital age. Faced with a decision that caused many theaters across America to go dark, the Reg chose to meet the challenge of purchasing a digital projector.
Reg Lenna Center for the Arts staff members are pictured in the lobby with a display of the former projectors. From left in front are: Len Barry, marketing and communications director; and Tim Smeal, patron services manager and marketing support. From left in back are: Steve Bush, technical director; Kathleen Eads, executive director; and Lynn Warner, director of operations.
P-J photos by Dusten Rader
The new digital projector is pictured from above the theater.
"The whole mantra of the theater business for the last year has been go digital or go dark," said Steve Bush, technical director.
The upgrade was expensive - costing more than $82,000 - but the ability to continue showing movies at the Reg far outweighs the cost, said Tim Smeal, patron services manager.
"Our seats don't have armrests that you can lift up so you can snuggle with your sweetie, but what we do now have with the installation of the digital projection system is a sound and picture quality that is absolutely second to none," Smeal said. "You get to see this in a venue that is a glorious historic theater. The floor is not sticky, and it doesn't smell like feet. The concession prices are cheaper than any corporate movie house that you'll go to. So, if you believe that going to theater to see anything, whether it be a live performance or otherwise, is a sacred experience - then this is the difference between worshipping in a grand cathedral and praying in your car."
MOVIES AT THE REG
According to Len Barry, director of marketing and communications, one thing folks can expect going forward is more frequent programming.
"We'll be able to go throughout the year," Barry said. "We have a community panel of about 10 people who help decide what films to bring in. You can still expect to see independents, foreign films, Oscar winners and big budgets, but the panel has already begun branching out. With newer films specifically they are looking at things in film festivals now. The panel has also been tasked with looking at smaller film festival or genre specific weekends to help expand our audience. We may even look at certain filmmakers, actors or decades. And, we'll do more family-friendly showings as well."
"We're also working on complimenting other partners' programming," said Kathleen Eads, executive director. "For example, during Lucy Fest we'll run some Lucy movies, and when the Cody Family Reunion is in town we'll scare up some Westerns."
One thing that hasn't changed at the Reg is the value. The price of admission to a showing is $5, and any five concession items are an extra $5. Plus, due to a popcorn machine upgrade the theater now serves organic popcorn.
"It's a destination that's more than the multiplex experience," said Lynn Warner, director of operations.
The next films the Reg is scheduled to screen include: "Frozen" on Wednesday at 7 p.m., and "12 Years A Slave" on Saturday and Wednesday, May 14, at 8 p.m. More will be announced soon.
The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts is located at 116 E. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information, call 484-7070 or visit www.reglenna.com.
IN WITH THE NEW
Going forward, whenever someone enters the Reg they will be introduced to the two projectors which kept film alive throughout the decades that preceded digital formats.
"It's an homage to the roots of the Reg," Eads said.
The monsters of celluloid, which are both still in working order, stand as a testament to days long past. However, digital film is a whole new beast of its own, providing a host of capabilities never seen at the Reg before.
According to Bush, the Reg is home to one of the largest film screens in Western New York - 16 by 35 feet - and it works quite well with the new NEC NC2000 Digital Cinema Projector and Dolby Cinema Surround Audio system. The controls allow for the running of both cinemascope and flatscreen movies at the push of a button. Among many other new capabilities, the theater can now host "Sensory Friendly" screenings of films.
"The capabilities are drastically improved from what we used to have," Bush said. "The improvements to the approach of digital audio and video have progressed so far. The quality of the film is so much better and there is a lot cleaner audio signal for the listener. I'm no Roger Ebert, but when I look at the digital format I see it was much cleaner and much clearer."
Due to the high cost of the upgrade, going digital wouldn't have been possible without the generous support of local foundations, the city of Jamestown and the community.
According to Warner, board member Michael Dykeman spearheaded the fundraising efforts. The major grant-giver for the project was the Gebbie Foundation, but grants were also acquired through the New York State Council on the Arts and the Regional Economic Development Council thanks to Andrea Magnuson, associate director of the Gebbie Foundation. Mayor Sam Teresi was also in support of the project. The community also offered donations via a capital campaign.
"It was a true group effort," Warner said.
"It was a competitive grant process, but we had the highest marks in the region for our project," Barry added.